There were no operational smoke detectors in three out of the four latest deadly fires in Cleveland. But, even if those places had smoke detectors, only 90 percent of smoke detectors in American homes today are not even capable of detecting fire, according to some studies.
“This detector was right outside of her bedroom and never went off even though we determined it was a working smoke alarm,” said Chagrin Falls Fire Marshall, Jim Alunni, referring to an ionization smoke detector that never went off during a Chagrin Falls house fire in 2015.
A photoelectric alarm on the first floor was what actually alerted the homeowners sleeping inside. Photoelectric alarms are more expensive and more effective, said Alunni.
“Photoelectric isn’t necessarily new, it’s been around since the 1960s, but these are more prevalent because it’s simple economics, they’re cheaper,” said Alunni.
“A third of all the deaths in the United States could be prevented by switching to photoelectric,” said Deputy Fire Chief Jay Fleming from the Boston Fire Department.
Ionization alarms are found in 90% of American homes, but in Chagrin Falls and in the city of Boston, among others, you are not allowed to build a new home with ionization smoke detectors, only photoelectric.
“Most consumers are not aware that that smoke detector may not go off, even though there’s so much smoke, you and I wouldn’t be able to see each other,” said Fleming.
The price difference is about $3 between an ionization and photoelectric smoke detector. By 2020, it is expected that photoelectric smoke detectors will be mandatory in a majority of U.S. households.